- George Moore
Phnom Kulen is a mountain range of moderate height that stretches over 12.8 kilometers along the Angkor plain. It is located 48 kilometers north of Siem Reap and its name means "mountain of the lychees"". Phnom Kulen has a symbolic importance and it is venerated by Cambodians as it is the site where the Khmer empire originated. There is a sacred hilltop site on top of the range (also known as Phnom Kulen) and studies undertaken last century identified over 30 different temple ruins. However, the area has not been de-mined and it is not recommended to visit them without an expert guide.
Phnom Kulen can only be reached by car and travelling from Siem Reap requires about an hour and a half. Take Sivatha road from the town center and turn right when you arrive to the Angkor Wat moat. Follow the paved road to Banteay Kdei and on the round about before Banteay Kdei turn right to a dirt road and follow the dirt road for 25 kilometers. Allow yourself at least half day for the visit if combined with other Siem Reap temples, further afield. Within the site you can also visit the Phnom Kulen reclining Buddha or the Phnom Kulen waterfalls.
Phnom Kulen is the birthplace of the Angkor era as it was here that Jayavarman II united the different states in the region and proclaimed independence from Java in 802AD. In a ceremony celebrated in the same year in the Phnom Kulen he proclaimed himself king and he built a temple called Rong Chen that would be where his royal linga was kept. The temple had a pyramidal shape resembling the Mount Meru.
"The nearby thousand Linga rivers was where the sins of the Kingdom were washed away. Today is a popular picnic site were locals go at weekends and it is a beautiful spot to relax and have a purifying dip!".
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